Showing posts from July 4, 2010

Thoughts on Fiji: The Wrong End of the Stick

 John de Bueger,  a New Plymouth writer and engineer,  reckons we might all have got the wrong end of the stick about Fijian hard man Frank Bainimarama.

After a less than perfect in-transit-stop-off-holiday in Tahiti about 30 years ago, I declared that nothing short of a team of wild horses would drag me to sample afresh the tropical delights of silver sands, balmy breezes and coconut trees - anywhere. Consequently I have never been to Fiji.

The place has seldom been far from the headlines since the last coup, and the recent crop of stiff penalties against journalists and media organisations who portray the present regime in less-than-glowing terms, suggests Helen Clark had grounds for waging a vendetta against the good commodore and his merry men. But is Commodore Bainimarama in fact a better interim deal than the bunch of racially riven gentlemen he turfed out?

It is all very well harping on about how terrible losing democracy is - as if that is the sole criterion by which to judge…

Lockington's Everyday Fiji ... Life Goes On

Allen Lockington is a self-employed customs agent and business consultant who has regular articles published in I thank Allen and Connect for permission to reprint some of them in this political blog. They remind us that life goes on, whatever the political situation. And it's good to know that.

The Grand Pacific Hotel
My brother came in from Australia and went to visit and also took photos of the Grand Pacific Hotel. The place is in a sorry state compared to its days of glory. I looked for information about the GPH and found many on the Internet. (Wikipedia) The Grand Pacific Hotel is located on the main sea front, on Victoria Parade in Suva. It was built by The Union Steamship Company in 1914 to serve the needs of passengers on its transpacific routes. The design of the hotel was to make the passengers think they had never gone ashore, for rooms in the GPH were like first-class staterooms, complete with saltwater bathrooms and plumbing fixtures …

Reader Says Ranjit Singh Wrong on Fiji Holdings Ltd

First, the Comments by 'Corruption Fighter' then Ranjit's Reply and the original article

Sherlock say Field "Completely Wrong" and Other Stories

SHERLOCK TO SUE BANK, BLAMES MICHAEL FIELD FOR FALSE STORY. NZ resort owner to file claim against FDB RadioFiji reports that former Fiji Lagoon Resort owner Jim Sherlock will file a claim against the Fiji Development bank over the closure of his business. (Photo Michael Field)
The Resort was seized in May by the FDB over a disagreement on the conditions of the repayment of a $300,000 loan.Sherlock says he has lost a lot from the closure and blames the FDB lawyers for much of the problem.

“What I’m doing is, I’ll just claim against Fiji Development Bank for destroying my business. The Bank itself has been quite good to me, as soon as the lawyers took over they saw that a bit of money was there to be made and they are in like robber’s dogs. So, I was really disappointed about that. I sold three properties in New Zealand, all put into this resort. Their lawyers didn’t think about the tourist side of it at all.”

FDB CEO Deve Toganivalu told FBC News he is not at liberty to publicly discuss…

Public Sector Reforms: 4. Housing and the 55+ Retirement Age

Edited extracts from my Interview with Parmesh Chand, Permanent Secretary Public Service Commission. Vinaka, Tui, for this transcript.

We have got a lot of things right we have decided on more prudent use more efficient use of Government properties meaning housing and office space we have decided that we bid it out to the private sector and that it be commercially rented out and the civil servants who want to live in government quarters would have pay commercial rent and we have a select group of civil servants who are entitled to housing allowance. So that work is underway at the moment some of the house in domain have been spruced up and rented out.
Croz: In other words there are no more housing entitlement with jobs? Parmesh Chand: They’ll be no more housing in relation to a job but they will be a housing allowance if a job is of particular necessity and demand and if government agrees so that they be paid a housing allowance so we are listing at the moment which jobs carry legibi…

Questions for Government, and Other Stories

Testing the Water
'On the Sideline in Viti Levu' writes: "Croz, You are always asking for helpful suggestions and often giving advice on what NZ or Australia must do. Here are a few things I think Fiji Government should do:
1. Decide if they want to be friends with Australia and NZ or not. If yes, then stop the wild outbursts and work on a plan to re-engage.
2. Be flexible- even bringing the election forward say 6 months would be signal that they are prepared to negotiate. Why the hard line on this one ?
3. Deal with some of the respective poor decisions made after the coup that continue to dog them. For example, remove Mr Kean from Navy command. You have to live what you preach. maybe hand back the back pay - no one believes the PM never took a day of leave in all his career. On Kean surely he must be replaceable? There are plenty of other examples, e.g., the soldiers released early. Also stop the army taking people to the barracks and put a professional police person in cha…

Michael Field Is At It Again: Is this "Vindictive, Deceitful Journalism"?

"KIWI PAIR CAN LEAVE FIJI WITH JUST 2 BAGS."  Under this heading, Michael Field  writes, "a New Zealand couple made prisoners in their own resort in Fiji are being forced out this week with one piece of baggage each."
The alleged "imprisonment" commenced two months ago when the couple failed to meet outstanding loan interest repayments. Field does not mention these debts and provides little to no background or explanation for their eviction and deportation except a presumed capriciousness by Government and brutality by "soldiers" (reservists working for a security firm).

All he said was, "The Sherlocks' ejection comes as the military regime of Voreqe Bainimarama has begun issuing decrees – which cannot be challenged in court – effectively seizing foreign private property."

The couple have lived in Fiji for 22 years and are Fiji citizens. I doubt Field's story that they are being  forced out of the country. But it is no surpris…

Public Sector Reforms: 3. Scholarships and Training

Edited extracts from my Interview with Parmesh Chand, Permanent Secretary Public Service Commission. Vinaka, Tui, for this transcript.

In the area of Human Resource, we are doing a lot of work in reshaping our scholarship programs both for in-service and new entrants to the civil service. We spend as much as $30 million a year on government scholarship but many government scholarships were given in conventional areas like accounting, law, management, economics but the needs of government are not in those areas there’s enough of those people.
Croz: These were tertiary scholarship? Parmesh Chand: Yes, we have stopped giving scholarships in those areas there is some given but minimal, but now the focus is more on medicine, geo-sciences and veterinary sciences, agricultural sciences, town planning, meteorology and scientist. A lot of work is being done in that area, we also are looking at compulsory induction training for anybody joining the civil service and latter on have compulsory refre…
SOLDIERS COMING HOME. The bodies of two soldiers killed in action in Afghanistan while serving in the British Army are coming home.The body of Kingsman Ponipate Tagitaginimoce will arrive at Nadi Airport on Friday and will be laid to rest on Saturday at Nakaulevu village, Nakelo in Tailevu. The body of Corporal Taniela Rogoiruwai will arrive on Monday and will be laid to rest on Tuesday at Nauluvatu village, Nakelo in Tailevu.

PROUDLY i-TAUKEI, PROUDLY FIJIAN. A Fijian Affairs Amendment Decree has been gazetted which sees all written laws amended by replacing the word "Fijian" with i-Taukei for indigenous Fijians.  "Fijian" will now be used for all Fiji citizens irrespective of race. The change will not please everybody. It is not easy to getused to new names.  But it is actually an older and more accurate nomenclature, Fijian being a corruption of Viti, the name given by Tongans. Citizens of all races will now be able to proudly proclaim themselves Fijian, removing…

New Land Legislation, Old Students and PINA, PM and the Forum, Tonga and MSG Plus, Consumers, Rotuma

NEW LAND LEGISLATION JUST AND POLITICALLY ASTUTE. Land lease money will be distributed equally among mataqali (landowner unit) members, when new legislation is passed.  The PM  said present distribution methods are a major cause of village disputes and leadership tussles. Government will be distributing lease money directly to the landowners without charging fees or interests. The new legislation, which cuts out the Native Land Trust Board 15% deduction and allocations to the chiefly hierarchy, will, according to the PM, empower people to take on responsibilities in their respective villages.

Meanwhile, the Land Use Decree will provide the legal framework for leasing of i-taukei and State-owned land at market rates. The PM said, “The law allows for the establishment of a land bank from which potential investors and farmers can sub-lease or lease land from the State for up to 99 years. This will provide certainty of tenure, improved rental return to the i-taukei landowners and to the St…

Public Sector Reforms: 2. Outsourcing

Edited extracts from my Interview with Parmesh Chand, Permanent Secretary Public Service Commission. Vinaka, Tui, for this transcript.
Croz: Are the reforms part of the  Roadmap or are they a roadmap within the \Roadmap? Parmesh Chand: There ought to be a road map within a roadmap but at the moment it is a free for all and we are allowing it to find its own feet. The outsourcing policy that I am developing will have a road map. We cannot do everything all at once because there will be social implications. We looked at avenues for staff participation when we outsourced the security and laundry services at the Hospitals.
The security work went out to the security companies and some people were absorbed by the companies. With the laundry work, we are helping the workers to form a company and run the laundry on an outsourced contract basis. They are talking about that at the moment. So some of this work we may be able to outsource to firms formed or companies formed by staff.
Croz: So som…

Mainly Media, Fiji Times, Tourism, Corruption, Phone Decree, Investment

ONE PICTURE's WORTH A THOUSAND WORDS. Saturday Suva, their readers could have thought. This is the photo used on Saturday by the Sydney Morning Herald to illustrate an article on Fiji. It's more truthful than the tanks one paper used soon after the Coup (Fiji has no tanks), and not much worse than always seeing Bainimarama in military uniform, but it's pretty deceitful nonetheless. Small excuse that below the picture in small, easily missed print, it read, A soldier guards a military checkpoint in Fiji's capital Suva in 2006.The article was written by Michael Field.

MY LETTER TO THE UK NEWSTATESMAN. "Your story is misleading and very one-sided. What else would you expect John Hartigan to say? 

His company is an aggrieved party. There are concerns about the Media Decree but it also has some commendable features, including a code of ethics that many readers of the Fiji Times would say is long overdue.

"For a contrary, and I think more balanced account, of this…

Not So Sweet: Problems in the Sugar Industry

MORE SUGARCANE NEEDED. The most immediate issue confronting the industry, according to Fiji Sugar Corp CEO Deo Saran is to increase cane production to meet the mills’ output.  the current crop only accounts for 50% of the cane required to optimize mill efficiencies. Measures being undertaken by the FSC and Government to address this problem include:
1) FSC cost-cutting and generation of supplementary revenue;
2) addressing land issues through the Land Reform Program and the efforts of the Committee for Better Utilization of Land;
3) a Government grant of $6 million towards land preparation for the 2010 planting season which has a target of 6,000 hectares;
4) a $19.6 million Government-subsidy to the South Pacific Fertilizers over the last two years to enable farmers get cheaper fertilizer;
5) and a major cane rehabilitation programme  over the next two years. The 2010 planting program should see an increase of around 75% over the previous year, but this will still not meet the mills requ…

The Revised Budget 2010: Facts and Figures

THE REVISED BUDGET 2010 (click here) should see slightly more revenue ($1.496 billion), slightly less expenditure ($1.715), and a reduced net deficit of $218.0 million or 3.5% of the nominal GDP at $6.188 billion. Local business seems to be happy according to Suva Chamber of Commerce president Dr Nur Ali.

The PM and Minister of Finance said $143 million had to be diverted from other purposes to meet the cost of two natural disasters ( Hurricanes Mike and Tomas), which struck Fiji within four months. He said unexpected costs were not likely to end there, The termite infection affecting the Lautoka area is also likely to be costly and there is an urgent need to dredge waterways like the Rewa.

He thinks the revised budget reflects the true position, creates transparency and will ensure accurate financial records and practices. At his recent meeting with the IMF, the IMF informed him that there was a failure of compliance with international best practices by previous administrations. He e…